"...and you need a helping hand. And nothing, nothing is going right..."
I used to cover for our church secretary every once in a while when she had to be out of the office. One of the best, but still toughest parts of the job was answering those calls from people who needed help...with electric bills, rent, doctor's bills, you name it. Even before the economy took its latest nose dive, thousands were laid off from their jobs, and the sun went on overtime, there were many among us who were already struggling.
Tom and I have been juggling and stretching paychecks for a long, long time - we've been on both the giving and receiving sides of loans - but each of these calls would make my blessings suddenly crystal clear, as if a shade that had been pulled down blocking my view was ripped aside.
"Close your eyes and think of me and soon I will be there, to brighten up even your darkest night..."
Sure, there are some people who have learned to work the system. They know the agencies to call for help...know how much they can get and how long they have to wait in between calls. But the majority are real people who have found themselves in dire straits with no where else to turn. You can hear it in their voices - the fear of the unknown, the humiliation of having to ask for help, the desperation. That was the tough part for me - hearing it in their voices. With each call I wished I was a millionaire so I could do something for them myself. I tried not to be condescending or pitying or any other "ing"...just tried to sound normal, like this was only a bump in the road that they would soon be over and it was no big deal having to call and ask for help.
"You just call out my name and you know wherever I am, I'll come running to see you again..."
I couldn't help them monetarily myself - not every one - but with just a phone call to one of several St. Vincent de Paul Society volunteers from our parish, I knew they'd receive aide if they really needed it, whe ther or not they belonged to our parish or any church, for that matter. They didn't even have to be Christians ...they just had to live within our zip code. If they didn't, I could direct them to the right agency. That was the best part...a feeling that I was helping in some way.
"Winter, spring, summer or fall...all you have to do is call, and I'll be there. You've got a friend."
I wonder if Carole King was thinking about the St. Vincent de Paul Society when she wrote "You've Got a Friend"? Or perhaps the Friend they're working for? The song sure fits.
"If the sky above you grows dark and full of clouds and that old north wind begins to blow, keep your head together and call my name out loud. Soon, you'll hear me knocking at your door."
Each year our parish holds an annual Oktoberfest to raise money for our St. Vincent de Paul Society and other organizations that help out in the community. We have a garage sale, music, kids' area, turkey legs, country store, silent auction...all the usual festival fun. But the big fundraiser - the one that gets the organizations through the rest of the year and determines how much help they can give - is the raffle.
"You just call out my name and you know wherever I am, I'll come running to see you again...winter, spring, summer or fall...all you have to do is call, and I'll be there. You've got a friend."
I wish I could buy all of the tickets...but I can't. I work in an office with two people who belong to my parish. I have a handful of neighbors and no family in town. That's why I'm using my blog to ask for help - if you're reading this, would you consider buying a ticket? They each cost $10 but one ticket gives you a chance to win 5 prizes, and you don't have to be present to win.
This list has been updated for our 2010 Oktoberfest on October 2:
1st prize - $5000 gift card
2nd prize - Maid service for 1 year (or equivalent value gift card of $3000)
3rd prize - Apple iPad (or equivalent value gift card of $1000)
4th prize - Weber Performer Charcoal Grill (estimated value $450)
5th prize - iPod Touch (or equivalent value gift card of $450)
If you're interested, you can e-mail me and I'll let you know how to get your ticket. But whether or not you buy any tickets, please say a prayer that enough money is raised to help all of those who will need it in the coming year.
"Ain't it good to know you've got a friend when people can be so cold. They'll hurt you and desert you...and take your soul if you let them...oh, but don't you let them. You just call out my name, and you know wherever I am, I'll come running to see you again. Winter, spring, summer or fall, all you have to do is call, and I'll be there. You've got a friend."
Well, think about it...and in the meantime, enjoy my favorite version, sung by James Taylor...